Starting with A Good Read: this article by one of our hosts – indeed by one who said she was only prepared to host women – appeared in The Times this weekend. We are standing by our laptops for a flurry of host applications, and hoping that at least some Times readers live in London, Bristol, Brighton or Cardiff where we could really do with some more hosts.
And I got up far too early last Sunday to do this interview for BBC Radio London.
We heard in January that although we got through to the last round of the Aviva competition, we did not win and the Aviva judges decided to award us just £250 after all our votes and hard work.
While that is not enough to allow us to roll out our travel card scheme, we will continue to do our best to support hosts who need help with providing travel cards for their guests,
Charitable status is nearly there and, when we do get it, we can apply for other grants and make good use of any donations. We can already get Gift Aid as another charity will take in donations on our behalf and pass on the Gift Aid. But we are not fund-raising to replace the Aviva grant until our own charitable status is sorted. After that, we might come back to our supporters with specific requests.
We have now hosted for an amazing 14,661 person nights – almost half as many again since the last newsletter, only six weeks or so ago.
We had made 353 placements by 11 February, which again is a huge increase. 165 of those have been in London, 108 in the Home Counties and Bristol coming in third with 33 placements.
We now have over 400 assessed hosts (270 in London and the Home Counties) with just over 250 unassessed. Almost all of the latter have visitors assigned unless they live in remote areas, have said they are not ready or we have no Home Visitor nearby.
This has been the baby hosting month: two of our guests have given birth while hosted – which absolutely shouldn’t happen as pregnant guests are eligible for Section 4 accommodation at about 34 weeks.
But J in East London was still with her host – where she had arrived before Xmas – when she had an emergency caesarian and a three-pound baby. The host organised the local community into providing nappies, clothes, company and even a breast-feeding counsellor. Not until the baby had turned into an infant bed-blocker, as the special care baby unit wouldn’t discharge her until mum was offered accommodation, was a decision made to house her.
And R, hosted while she waited for the promised accommodation, went into labour the day before she was due to change hosts as half-term loomed. For her we had even assigned one of the admin team to stay over in case labour started while the house was otherwise empty. She is still in hospital with her baby as I write, waiting for accommodation promised for Monday. And some hosts still say they will only host women!
How can we better find the right hosts for our guests?
We are always on the look-out for hosts who will consider taking male guests. We reckon that at least 75% of our potential guests are male and single here – although many have wives and even families back home or in a refugee camp.
Our male guests tend to be quite young: mostly between 18 and about 30. They are desperate to get on with their lives here and to bring over families if they have them. We have never had an allegation of theft, and general behaviour towards host families has been remarkably good, positive and affirming.
We do understand why some hosts want to put their toes in the water with very short placements, and we will, of course, respect that, but it is, of course, much more work for us, and we encourage hosts to offer a month to start with (on the understanding that we will always move someone if things are not working out). But it helps if referrers are supportive: realistic about what their clients need but acknowledging that it may not always be possible in one placement.
I hope in the next newsletter to bring you confirmation that we have charitable status and may start applying for grants to support our work with the destitute guests we host.
In the meantime, all the best and thanks for all your support.
Sara and the core team
Refugees At Home